Positive EV – Elementals at Swiss Nationals

Visit the StarCityGames.com booth at Nationals!
Thursday, July 23rd – At the recent Swiss Nationals, Manuel Bucher ran his five-color Elemental build against all comers. Sadly, he didn’t quite light up the tournament floor, but he shares the highs and lows nonetheless. He also brings us a cool Five-Color Control deck that comes highly recommended, backed with a few good finishes…

Today, I will talk about how I did at my Nationals, and share the most recent Elemental list. I will also inform you how I would play Five-Color Control right now, based on a list created by Tiago Fonseca.

The Friday before my Nationals, the Free-TV-Premier of Rocky Balboa was on. I tool something very important from watching this movie, and even though it was in German and I have to translate it into English now, I want to share it with you.

“There is absolutely nothing or nobody that will hit you as hard as life. If you think something belongs to you, you have to ensure you are able to stand enough hits to get there. Losers will not stay standing, because they know they will eventually take another hit — the winners will stand up and take one hit after another until they finally get what they think belongs to them.”

Sadly, my Nationals was another one of those hits from life.

This is the list I played in the Standard portion of the tournament.

I chose to run 4 Ethersworn Canonist in the sideboard because Combo Elves did seem to have some popularity at my Nationals. I moved the whole package of Soul Wardens and Ranger of Eos in the main deck because I felt like I could outplay most of my Faerie opponents, while I wanted to be more secure if my opponent didn’t have a hard time in the match. I did cut one of the Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders to make room for the fourth Soul Warden, as I didn’t expect a lot of Mono-Red Aggro decks. Even though I didn’t play a great tournament, I still believe in the deck as the only matchup I really fear is Combo Elves (which is still easier than Swans was before the rotation). If you play it at your nationals, I suggest you to playtest the deck a lot, as even though I’ve played the deck for a while now, I still make mistakes which can easily cost me the game.

I won the first round against Faeries, with me having very good draws and with him having very mediocre ones (game 2 I open with Harbinger into Bloom Tender, turn 3 Mulldrifter followed by turn 4 Spellbreaker Behemoth and Incandescent Soulstoke backed up by double Cloudthresher). I lost my second round to Blightning Aggro where I misplayed several turns – because I actually thought it would be the right play — and end up losing 1-2 in very close games. The third round I played against GW Tokens, where I have a very mediocre draw after going to Paris twice, and I crush him in the second game. The third game is all about if he has the kill before my sixth turn or not — and he has it.

With a record of 1-2, I was seated in a seven-player draft pot that included some good players like Matthias Kuenzler.

I open a Ranger of Eos, which I take over a Sprouting Thrinax and a Drumhunter because I’ve had really bad experiences with Green in this format, and I thought that Jund would be very popular. The pick might be very bad, as you might want to draft a very solid deck (which Jund almost always is) over a deck which ends up either being very good or very bad. First picking Ranger of Eos usually ends up with the player having a very good deck… or a very bad one. Especially if it is not at a Pro Tour; in a Pro Tour level draft, the more solid card might just be the right pick.

I second pick a Kathari Screecher, and take a Knight of the Skyward Eye pick 3. In the following pack I receive a Sedris, the Traitor King, which I interpret as a huge sign, so I moved into Grixis (while white was dyeing and the same time). The pack was rounded up by 2 Dregscape Zombies, a Resounding Wave, Kederekt Leviathan and Covenant of Minds.

In the second pack I open a Banefire, which I slammed over Parasitic Strix and Shambling Remains, ensuring that I would stay on a Grixis Base. I didn’t receive any of the Blue / Black cards I love in the second pack (Sedraxis Alchemist and Parasitic Strix), so my deck ended up being very slow. I couldn’t change that with the third pack, when the only playable for my deck I opened was Architects of Will, but I luckily got passed a Bituminous Blast and a seventh pick Spellbound Dragon. I picked an Igneous Pouncer over a Borderpost in the same colors, even though I already had two Faerie Mechanists, because I wanted some more synergy with Soul Manipulation and Sedris, the Traitor King.

In the end, this is the deck I registered, with some notable sideboard cards.

3 Mountain
6 Swamp
8 Island

2 Dregscape Zombie
1 Kathari Screecher
2 Faerie Mechanist
1 Architects of Will
1 Spellbound Dragon
1 Vectis Agent
2 Igneous Pouncer
1 Grixis Slavedriver
1 Sedris, the Traitor King
1 Kederekt Leviathan

1 Unsummon
1 Wretched Banquet
1 Terminate
1 Soul Manipulation
1 Covenant of Minds
1 Traumatic Visions
2 Deny Reality
1 Bituminous Blast
1 Banefire

Noteable Sideboard
1 Unstable Frontier
1 Stormcaller’s Boon
2 Undead Leotau
1 Resounding Wave
1 Sanctum Plowbeast
1 Crystallization
1 Knight of the Skyward Eye
1 Tortoise Formation
1 Ranger of Eos
1 Countersquall
1 Cancel
1 Demonic Dread
1 Suicidal Charge
2 Grixis Illusionist

I lost the fourth round (the first round of the draft) to a Naya Based beatdown decks featuring Lush Growth, and multiples of Cerodon Yearlings and Tukatongue Thallids. My draws were very weak in both games, after going to Paris in both, and I couldn’t cast spells in the early game because I simply didn’t draw any mana. In the second round of the draft I got a bye, and played against several draft decks from friend, which I all slaughtered. This was important because it definitely got my spirit back after losing to such a weak deck and having a bye at Swiss Nationals.

The very next round I played against an opponent with a solid Naya Deck featuring a pair of Drumhunters. Sadly, his play speed was not the fastest ever seen, which did lead to us having only about 8 minutes to run the third game. We were not able to finish the game, but I had a dominant board position and asked him to scoop. Sadly, he decided that he would rather see both of us out of contention, so I scooped and hope he learned a lesson. Not that you shouldn’t scoop because your opponent might, but that you should scoop to the guy with the better board if you are about to draw when both guys would be out of contention with a draw.

That’s the moment I dropped from the tournament. I obviously wasn’t very happy with the result, but I knew that I misplayed at least one of my rounds. Sometimes life hits you harder than anybody or anything else in the world, and I will stand up and get what belongs to me eventually. Victory.

The good news is that I got a very good Five-Color Control list from Tiago Fonseca a few days before the tournament. Two friends of mine ran the list at Nationals, as they didn’t feel comfortable enough with Elementals, and they posted a very solid record. They recommend that everybody else should play the deck. This is the list, with a few changes based on their recommendations.

The deck has a very good matchup against the most popular aggro decks. Sadly, one of the players had to play against Doran in the quarterfinals of the tournament, and as he didn’t have any Hallowed Burials in his 75, he had lots of trouble dealing with the Siege Tower and Putrid Leech. Even though the Japanese Nationals did feature another Five-Color Control list, I would recommend you play this one. It is worse in the mirror and against Doran-like decks, but it is much better against Faeries or Combo Elves. The Great Sable Stag combined with Volcanic Fallout give you a real plan against Fae now, which was a very problematic matchup before. I am a huge fan of the singleton Obelisk of Alara, because decks like Elementals, Reveillark, or even Mono-Red have a lot of trouble with an early Obelisk, and it is a game winner in every match up once you made it to the late game.

I don’t really like the Broken Ambitions in the deck, but they just seem to be a necessary evil. The Wall of Reverences could be exchanged for Mulldrifters, as the metagame might move away from beatdown, especially after the results of the Japanese Nationals.

The Elves matchup is pretty easy, as you have lots of cheap mass removal supported by some Agony Warps and Countermagic. As long as you are able to keep Regal Force off the table, you should be fine.

The Mono-Red matchup is pretty tight for the deck, but as that deck is not very popular right now you don’t need to run Runed Halo (to fight Anathemancer) maindeck. Aside from that, you also have a pair of Ajani Vengeants and Flashfreezes in the board. I don’t like the Flashfreeze a lot, but it is useful in so many matchups that it might be good enough to be in there.

Against most White aggro decks, the amount of mass removal in your decklist gives you a fair advantage. You can easily deal with Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders with Plumeveils, Agony Warps, and Hallowed Burials.

The list my friends played at the tournament did play Infest over Hallowed Burial in the sideboard, but that card is just another Volcanic Fallout effect and doesn’t upgrade your deck against big guys like Doran, the Siege Tower or Wilt-Leaf Liege. They also ran Double Negative instead of the Negates, but as the Cascade-Control decks didn’t see any play, while there were several different Five-Color Control lists, running Negates just makes more sense.

This is it for this week! I wish you the best of luck at your Nationals!

Manu B